Ready or Not

Someone on TV said that Senator Kennedy, in his final days, was, in the common phrase "ready to go."

I wonder what that feels like–being ready to go–or even what it means exactly.

Resolved? Welcoming with open arms?

Or just practically speaking, "ready," as in having put things in order, tied up loose ends, made the necessary preparations.

Maybe one day I will know what that feels like, but, really, when a person’s time comes, I think, more than likely, it’s "ready or not."

District 9

 Went to a matinee, in a really lousy mood with a clump of anxiety in my chest, and feeling slightly sick to my stomach, but still half way through I had the same feeling with "District 9" that I had when I first saw "Tremors (1990)."

Bingo. "Instant Classic."


That thing will have a prolonged after life on cable. People will just want to see it again and again, for the over all story and the little bits.

Shartol Copley turns in a masterful performance, on par, almost, with the immortal Jeffrey Combs in "Re-animator (1985)." Both play rollicking good versions of the "worm turns." Combs throughout "Re-animator" reacts to the gore and mayhem he produces like a man utterly consumed with the thought that he might at any moment die of constipation.

Combs is doing a one-person show now as Edgar Allen Poe. Seems like a good fit. The show concludes with a recitation of "The Raven." I can just see Combs banging his head on the floor and screaming that last "Nevermore!" 

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!
vertical spacereanimator

Hair Cut

I got a hair cut. Elder hair can be hard to manage. When it gets longer, down about the ears it flops this way and that and the weight of the longer hair pulls them closer to the head exposing more of the pinkish scalp. So the fact that one has elder hair can be all that much more apparent.

I got to this chain, chop shop, Fantastic Sams. I don’t know if they are a local or national chain. For a couple of years, I get the same lady to cut my hair. She does a good job and she always tries to take me quickly since a leave her a good tip.

18 bucks! Pisses me off. I thought a while back that I would just go to a barber shop; but I walked by one and the guy was advertising a special for 12 bucks! At least Mahalia does a good job.

Still, 18 bucks! I think a should be pro-rated or something; I have far, far less hairs on my head than the normal 18 buck hair cut. There was a kid there this morning with this thick mop of hair. Mahalia cut my hair in about a third of the time it took to cut that kid’s hair.

I mean based on hair count I should be paying 6 bucks.


Carol and I hosted Niece Savannah’s birthday party at the condo complex pool last Saturday. She and two friends–they all have birthdays at the same time–decided to have a collective party. So–Oh my god!–we had on hand about 30 to 35 15 year olds both male and female. We were told by the condo people that for such a large gathering two life guards would be required. So the parents of the birthday girls did that.

I don’t think I have been around that many 15 year olds since I was 15. I pretty much kept to myself. I think they were happy the adults were out of the way.

I believe things went smoothly.

We have hosted Niece Savannah’s birthday–except for one year–since she was 2.  I think.

Another pic

UC Crisis and Education

The financial crisis now hitting the University of California is the worst I have seen, and I have been teaching at UC Santa Barbara since 1980.  Certainly there have been other down times during this period but nothing like this.

I am particularly concerned about the effects of the proposed budget cuts upon the quality of undergraduate education.  That—high quality undergraduate education—is supposed to be one of the mandates of the UC system, but I fear that it is (and has for a long time) going to get the short end of the stick as financial adjustments are made for the current crisis.

Classes are being cut; instructors, especially lecturers, are being laid off.  Class sizes are sure to increase, and if teaching assistants are also cut back, large lectures will no longer have sections.

Students will still be expected and feel the pressure, for financial reasons, to graduate in four years, but with these changed conditions that will be increasingly impossible.

If you are currently a student in the UC system or have been (especially if you are at UCSB) I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the crisis and any reflections you might have on the quality of instruction you received or are receiving.

For a little background on the crisis, you might check out: "I am for option 4."

Where There’s Smoke

After a few glorious days at the end of July and into the first days of August, the fogbank that perpetually hovers off the coast moved in. We have been socked in under gloomy, gray skies now for a couple of weeks (though things seem to have lightened up a bit today).

The prevailing gloom was exacerbated by a down pouring of soot and ash.

I go out to my car one morning–and what do you know–but it has been covered by soot and ash.

Where did that come from, I wondered since I had heard no reports of fires nearby.

Turns out the fire is a big one in Los Padres National Forest. The terrain is impenetrable. The fire is at least 50 miles away, but that did not prohibit the wind from dropping soot and ash directly on us. We had a number of days with bad air advisories.

According to the LA Times, the fire was probably started by drug traffickers. That’s the first time I have heard of a fire started by drug traffickers. But apparently some of them were camping out in that impenetrable terrain, either planting perhaps, or perhaps harvesting. That wasn’t clear. But they had a cook fire going, that’s for sure; and that’s what lit up the forest.

I don’t think the forest was ever all that safe, but now one should beware of heavily armed men camping out in the woods. Apparently these traffickers are always armed and many may now work for the Mexican Drug Cartels.

So, anyway it’s been gloomy.


I have just depressed myself looking for the symptoms of swine flu on the web. Amazingly some of the sites have not been updated since April. What good is that.

But I have a cold or I think it is a cold or perhaps I have swine flu. Part of me would like to believe I have swine flu because I think I will survive this and then I shouldn’t have to worry about it when it hits this fall. But probably I don’t have swine flu which means I just have a nasty cold that is making me feel paranoid about having the swine flu.

I should never have bought a thermometer. I keep checking my temperature.

So far I have not had a temperature, but I find that the while fever is a symptom of swine flu, one does not always get a fever with the swine flu. And another source listed as the top two symptoms: fever and sudden cough. The latter is what I had and still have: a sudden cough, though I must say it is no longer sudden, since I have had it a week. Now I would call it persistent. It’s a horrible sounding cough, deep in the chest.

I got this cough from Hawaii, I am pretty certain. I say this because it sounds exactly like the cough our neighbors had a week or two ago. They went to Hawaii and came back with a cough, and in their case, also fevers.

Fatigue comes with the swine flu. I have certainly had that in spades. One site even lists "depression" as one of the symptoms. I had that already–I mean even before I caught this cough….

What got me started on this swine flu scare was an article in the LA Times saying one might prepare for the more serious complications of the swine flu by getting the pneumonia vaccine (that protects against bacterial forms), and the last couple of times I have been in my medical person mentioned I should get the pneumonia vaccine because I had pneumonia recently and well–you know–I smoke. So Carol called our medical person to see if I could get a the pneumonia vaccine, and she said sure, but was upset to hear that I had not gotten my vaccine for shingles, which she approved my last visit.

I had completely forgotten the shingles.

God this getting old is complicated. My memory is going, so the shingles completely slipped my mind. Jonathan Swift had the shingles; maybe that’s why he was so irritable.

So now I have prescriptions for a shingles and a pneumonia shot. But I don’t think I should go get them while I still have this cough–whatever it is.

I mean what if I got these shots and what with my immune system weakened I got pneumonia and the shingles at the same time!

I would be fit to be tied.

Remodel 10: The Diderot Effect

While the remodel is nearly complete, the effects of it are not.

In my readings on the consumer society, I came across more than once reference to the "Diderot effect."

Apparently Diderot acquired a fancy new housecoat (given to him I believe) and abruptly all that had previously surrounded him seem shoddy.

The new housecoat ruined him.

He writes in "Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown, or A warning to those who have more taste than fortune":

"In its shelter (the old housecoat) I feared neither the clumsiness of a valet, nor my own, neither the explosion of fire nor the spilling of water. I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one."

While I don’t feel a slave to my new surroundings, I know what he means. One upgrade requires another. The new stove for example required new cookware, not simply because the old cookware looked lousy on the new cookware but also because according to the instructions that came with the new stove our old cookware (wonderful and simple cast iron) would ruin the white ceramic top of the new stove. Moreover, upgrade means additional upkeep. The new stovetop is so damn white, I feel compelled to wipe it clean after I use it. The same with the cookware, so gleaming and new, I must make sure to get it back to its original shine.

So too we are in the market for a runner to cover the carpet on the stairs. Previously, it looked OK, but now that we have repainted everything and put new white carpet upstairs, it’s slightly worn condition, once tolerable, is now intolerable.

But there’s more to the effects of the remodel than just the "Diderot effect." In fact Diderot suggests more: the relation of good taste to fortune (though this gets a bit glossed over in the consumer interpretation of Diderot’s essay).

We need to find night stands for this. We have two of them:


Once Upon a Time

In a phone conversation, Sister-in-Law Teresa noted she had found online an article suggesting redheads are more sensitive to pain. I quote in part:

People with red hair are more sensitive to pain and consequently need more anesthetic during operations than other patients, according to new research.

"Red hair is the first visible human trait, or phenotype, that is linked to anesthetic requirement," says anesthesiologist Edwin Liem, who conducted the research at the Outcomes Research Institute of the University of Louisville, US.

And further:

In people with red hair, the cells that produce skin and hair pigment have a dysfunctional melanocortin 1 receptor. Liem says this dysfunction triggers the release of more of the hormone that stimulates these cells, but this hormone also stimulates a brain receptor related to pain sensitivity.

I didn’t know red hair was related to a "dysfunctional melanocortin 1 receptor." I don’t know what that means, but it doesn’t sound good. Red heads are known also to be susceptible to skin cancer. Although what skin has to do with hair or why the two should be related, I don’t. On the up side, red hair appears evolutionarily adaptive in that this dysfunctional receptor is related to a redheads’ ability to synthesize vitamin D with relatively low sunlight exposures. So as one site puts it redheads tend to appear in dark parts of the world, or the fringes of Western Europe.

I bring this up only because once upon a time I was a redhead. Now you wouldn’t know it but back in ’73 I looked like this:

Perhaps red is in the eye of the beholder. But don’t I really look "auburn." Redheads are the rarest of hair types, making them special in both positive and negative ways. Note the recent attacks on "gingers." But I am not a "ginger." No, I had lustrous, wavy auburn hair.

I have been proud of few things in my life, but I was proud of that damn hair. And now it’s all gone, though I still have that dysfunctional receptor.

Continue reading Once Upon a Time